The Number One Cause of Slab Foundation Problems

Photo of cracked dry earth that causes foundation problemsIf it’s not the number one problem then it’s a very close second.

It’s the soil.

If your slab-on-ground concrete foundation sits on heavy clay soils that dry out , then swell up when heavy rains come, the foundation  is in danger of movement.

It’s exactly this kind of expanding then shrinking that causes most of the common signs of foundation stress and damage.

A lot of foundation repair companies will tell you that the sticking doors,  windows that are hard to open and close, diagonal cracks in the drywall and brick, and sloping floors are signs that you might need foundation leveling.

And the main culprit is the clay soil that swells and shrinks.

We had a classic case of the soils reacting to the weather this past summer in North Texas.  Weeks of little or no rain, depending on whether you were lucky enough to be under a stray pop-up thunderstorm or not.  (Shrink)

Then along came Tropical Storm Hermine.  She dropped 4-6 inches of rain across the area. 4 1/2 inches at my house. The street turned into a river. I watched city provided trash containers and recycling bins float down the street and pile up against parked cars. (Swell)

So what is a home owner supposed to do to protect the foundation against the need for repair?

First, take control of what happens with the rain. Install gutters, keep them clean, and direct the water away from the foundation.  Make sure the rain drains off.  Don’t let the clay soil around the foundation swell up.

Then use soaker hoses to keep an even layer of moister around the perimeter of the slab during dry periods.  Don’t let the clay soil dry up and pull away from the slab. Run the soaker hoses just enough to keep an even layer of moisture. With some trial and error, you’ll learn how often and how long to run them. I’ve written a lot about soaker hoses on this blog and you can find it here.

A lot of foundation repair contractors can also help you with drainage issues and give you guidance on soaker hoses. Spending some money today for preventive measures like that can often save you big bucks for a foundation repair job.

Tags: , ,
Previous Post

Foundation Repair-Beware The Pier Salesman

Next Post

Foundation Repair Cost


  1. Pingback: Should I replace a bottom bottom plate in wall frame that has dry rot? | Repairing Water Damage

    • paula
    • October 14, 2010

    Less a comment than a question, if you don’t mind. We are looking at a new/old home (built in ’77) and have been told that the foundation needs repair. Measurements indicate that the NE corner is 1.5″ off (down), the SE corner 1.3, the W end about .3. There is evidence of some settling – cracked (and repaired) mortar at each end and hairline vertical cracks visible (in the same area as the mortar cracks.) There are no interior wall or ceiling cracks (and no repairs or patches noted). All doors and windows close properly.

    There is what seems to be a high spot (you refer to “a dome” in one article) in the center of the house (which just happens to be the point the foundation fellow set as his reference), but we can’t really tell if it is in the slab or just bunched up carpet padding. Unfortunately, we can’t pull the carpet until/unless we own the place, but are a little leery of purchase if we will have $$$$ worth of repairs we haven’t budgeted.

    We (and the home in question) are located in Central Texas, so we do understand the soil shift of this locale.

    Does this sound like something we should investigate further (ie, hiring a structural engineer) or is it just a simple case of settling?

  2. What I would do is have an independent structural engineer do an inspection. You can find engineers with foundation repair experience on the Foundation Performance Association website or do an internet search for engineers in your area.

    Get a price from 2 or 3 of them and also ask if they have any financial ties to any foundation repair company. Don’t use them if they do.

    Armed with an inspection report not done by a pier salesman, but rather an unbiased professional third party, (the engineer) you would be in a better position to negotiate with the seller for a reduced price if indeed the home needs foundation repair. If it does, get at least three other bids.

Comments are closed.